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News and Media
Our latest and archived media releases and news articles.
25 August 2016
Professor Valery Feigin has tonight been recognised for his outstanding contribution to stroke and traumatic brain injury research at a special ceremony at Auckland University of Technology.
The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) presented Professor Feigin, Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology, with an established researcher award as part of its 25-year anniversary celebrations.
Colleague Dr Alice Theadom took out the HRC award for health research excellence as an emerging researcher.
Professor Feigin has been involved in 16 HRC-funded studies totalling more than $18 million since 2000. He has led four HRC-funded projects and the highly influential programme, the Auckland Regional Community Stroke study. This Auckland-based programme revealed, among other major findings, a trend towards declining stroke rates in New Zealand Europeans over the past 20 years, yet a near doubling of stroke rates in Māori and Pacific populations over the same period.
HRC Group Manager of Investment Processes, Dr Vernon Choy, was part of the panel that assessed the award nominations. He says Professor Feigin’s research stood out as having had a major impact not just in New Zealand, but on the world stage.
“Valery and his team were the first in the world to show diverging trends in stroke burden between developed and developing countries, the increased burden of stroke across the globe, and the large and increasingly hazardous effect of air pollution on stroke burden worldwide, details of which were recently published in The Lancet Neurology,” says Dr Choy.
“In addition to stroke, findings from his team’s HRC-funded Brain Injury Outcomes New Zealand in the Community study uncovered the true extent of traumatic brain injury in New Zealand, showing that the scope of the burden is actually six times greater than even the World Health Organization estimated.”
Professor Feigin’s HRC-funded projects have resulted in 200 journal article publications in such top medical journals as The Lancet, The Lancet Neurology, Stroke, the International Journal of Stroke, and the European Journal of Neurology.
“Valery’s work remains of critical importance for evidence-based health care planning for strokes and traumatic brain injuries. It has also significantly influenced our current understanding of the epidemiology and prevention of these two potentially very debilitating conditions,” says Dr Choy.
Dr Alice Theadom, a senior research fellow at Auckland University of Technology and deputy director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, received the HRC outstanding emerging researcher award for her studies on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in New Zealand.
Dr Choy says that Dr Theadom’s HRC-funded studies have led to the discovery that mild TBIs, which include concussions, occur far more frequently than previously thought.
“When Alice first started her research, mild TBIs were often trivialised, with people generally expected to recover within days or weeks of their injury. However, her research has shown that half of adults and nearly a third of children who have suffered a mild TBI experience ongoing symptoms for at least one year after the initial injury – and even up to four years in some cases. This indicates that the label ‘mild TBI’ is misleading,” says Dr Choy.
The results of Dr Theadom’s research are now being used as part of multi-million dollar international collaborations, which will develop guidelines for identifying and managing TBIs worldwide.
Note: HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson has been involved in several of Professor Valery Feigin and Dr Alice Theadom’s HRC-funded projects during her time as a researcher at the Auckland University of Technology. Because of this association, Professor McPherson was not part of the HRC panel that assessed the nominations and chose the successful nominees.
22 August 2016
Last year Distinguished Professor Ian Reid was awarded the HRC's Liley Medal and the Royal Society of New Zealand's Rutherford Medal in recognition of his outstanding 30 year research career, which has led to discoveries and new treatments that can improve bone health.
Now you can hear Professor Reid discuss the impact and treatment of bone diseases, including osteoporosis and Paget’s disease at one of six free 2016 Rutherford Lectures throughout New Zealand (Nelson, Dunedin, Wanaka, Palmerston North, Wellington, and Napier). See the Royal Society of New Zealand's website for more details and to register.
*The 2016 Rutherford Lecture tour is a partnership between the Royal Society of New Zealand and the HRC and is supported by Osteoporosis New Zealand.
18 August 2016
Wellington Professor Kevin Dew has dedicated his 21-year research career to helping understand the sociology of health and illness in New Zealand, especially the inequalities in our health care system.
That commitment has been recognised with an award for his outstanding contribution to health research excellence as an established researcher from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).
HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson presented Professor Dew with the award at a special ceremony at Victoria University of Wellington’s Law School this evening. The ceremony celebrates research excellence at Victoria University of Wellington and 25 years of the HRC.
Professor Dew has been involved with 12 HRC-funded studies since 2002, ranging from identifying factors that enhance and hinder Māori health development to tracking communication between health professionals and patients in primary care.
One of Professor Dew’s main areas of research has focused on trying to understand the significant inequalities in cancer survival between Māori and non-Māori by looking at decision making in multidisciplinary teams, the cancer consultation process, and patient accounts of their cancer journey.
“Rather than overt discrimination being an issue that we should attend to, our research on the cancer journey shows that a number of ‘small’ influences can lead to inequities in cancer care, such as how health practitioners categorise people and a potential clash of understandings in relation to the roles that people take on when they enter the hospital system,” says Professor Dew.
Professor McPherson says Professor Dew’s detailed examination of the interactions between health professionals and patients has drawn heavily on conversation analysis, an approach that he has pioneered in New Zealand’s health care settings.
“As a result of this approach, Kevin co-founded and is co-director of the Applied Research on Communication in Health group based at Wellington Medical School. This group has built up a large collection of health professional and patient interactional data that is a very valuable resource for New Zealand’s research community,” says Professor McPherson.
Professor Dew says he was “bowled over” to get this award.
“I’m delighted that this award has gone to a sociologist, what’s more, a sociologist who has devoted his efforts to understanding social practices and their consequences. I think this signals that theoretically informed and methodologically sophisticated sociological research can sit alongside epidemiological research, clinical research and other forms of research that have traditionally received this sort of accolade,” says Professor Dew.
Victoria University’s Dr Kirsten Smiler (Te Aitanga a Mahaki, Rongowhakaata, Te Whakatōhea) was also honoured with a special acknowledgement for health research excellence as an emerging researcher for her work helping Māori deaf and hearing impaired tamariki (children) and their whānau.
Dr Smiler began her research career with the Deaf Studies Research Unit and the Health Services Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. She has since progressed her career with the support of a HRC Masters scholarship and PhD research fellowship, and currently, a HRC Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie Postdoctoral Scholarship.
Over the past 25 years there have been seismic shifts in support for deaf children in New Zealand, however, a question mark still looms over whether these shifts are enough for Māori deaf children. Dr Smiler’s postdoctoral study is contributing to a whānau ora approach to early intervention services for Māori deaf and hearing-impaired tamariki and their whānau.
“To have the HRC recognise my research through this special acknowledgement is almost surreal given my childhood experiences of being socialised in a language and culture that were not recognised – New Zealand Sign Language and Deaf culture – and wanting to learn my own language, Te Reo Māori, and yet having very little access outside educational contexts,” says Dr Smiler.
“For me, this work is an acknowledgement of the importance of whānau, language, and culture on our overall health and wellbeing. I feel extremely privileged to have been able to do this work.”
10 August 2016
The HRC has four statutory committees and administers four further committees that carry out regulatory functions. The principle function of these committees is to advise the HRC on the assignment of funds for health research. We are now seeking nominations for the HRC’s Biomedical Research Committee membership in the field of genetics, genomics and/or transgenics. Click here for further information.
Please send nominations to Dr Katie Palastanga via email by 1pm on Wednesday, 21 September 2016.